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La Russa turns to Marquis

ST. LOUIS -- Fourteen years after Tony La Russa's 103-win
Oakland team was swept in the World Series by underdog Cincinnati,
the St. Louis manager is facing the same outcome against the
wild-card Boston Red Sox.

"We're in about as difficult a spot as you can be in," La Russa said Tuesday night after the Red Sox beat the Cardinals 4-1
to take a 3-0 lead.

"All we can do is win (Wednesday)."

The Cardinals piled up a major league-leading 105 victories in
the regular season, one off a 52-year-old franchise record, and
beat Los Angeles and Houston in the playoffs to reach the World
Series for the first time in 17 years.

Now they're a team on the brink, finding novel ways to lose.

In sharp contrast to the regular season, the Cardinals have lost because of a lack of clutch hitting, bad starting pitching and mistakes on the bases.

"I don't think we're stinking up the joint," La Russa said.
"But we're capable of playing better."

Even playing at home -- where they were 6-0 in the postseason
before Tuesday night -- was no help in Game 3, when they were
occasionally booed by the red-clad faithful.

"Losing a game at home in the playoffs feels a little weird,"
reliever Ray King said. "Right now, we're just making the little
mistakes that become costly."

The lowlight in Game 3 came in the third inning when pitcher Jeff
Suppan got hung up between third base and home on Larry Walker's
groundout, and was tagged out for a double play.

"For the most part we haven't been the Cardinals that everybody
is used to seeing," Reggie Sanders said. "We have to bring out
all the guns (Wednesday)."

As a result, the Cardinals are in the same predicament the Red
Sox were in a little more than a week ago against the New York
Yankees, down 3-0 and looking hopeless. The fact that Boston rallied to win the ALCS provides a sliver of hope, but no team has ever come back from a
3-0 deficit to win the World Series.

"It's something you've got to notice," La Russa said. "It
shows it's possible. I think the one thing I'm absolutely confident
about is that we've come too far to give an effort that will
embarrass anybody."

It starts with the starters. The Cardinals are the first team
since the 1989 San Francisco Giants to go the first three games
without a starter lasting long enough to qualify for a victory -- five innings.

Suppan got knocked out in the fifth of Game 3, following the
rocky starts of Woody Williams and Matt Morris in the first two
games. The three combined to go 42-27 in the regular season, but
together have lasted 11 2-3 innings and given up 15 runs.

Suppan was better than the first two, though, and the bullpen
shut out Boston the rest of the game.

But it didn't matter, because the bats again were silent. Pedro
Martinez retired his last 14 batters in a resilient seven-inning
stint and the Cardinals got only one hit -- Walker's ninth-inning
home run -- in the last six innings.

The heart of the order -- MVP candidates Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds -- was 1-for-10 with an infield hit in Game 3.
And the trio is 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position in the
three games.

"Before we start pointing fingers at our pitching, we missed
opportunities to score," La Russa said. "We're just getting
beat."

Now Jason Marquis gets the ball Wednesday night. He has been a
disappointment so far in the postseason, allowing six runs in 7 1-3
innings in his two starts, but he's coming off a career-best 15-win
season.

"Obviously, I go out and try to win every game I pitch,"
Marquis said. "Obviously, we're down 3-0 and we need it."